Dead fish and drought in Illinois – 07/08/2005

  • October 29, 2013 at 9:44 pm #810

    Drought begins to take toll on fish

    By Richard Wronski
    Tribune staff reporter
    Published July 7, 2005

    How dry has it been this summer? So dry that fish are starting to
    bite the dust.

    State wildlife officials say fish die-offs are being reported across
    the state after the third-driest March through June in recorded

    While the dead fish don’t pose a serious problem yet–they have
    mainly been showing up in shrinking shallow backwaters–state
    conservation officials are monitoring the situation, anxiously
    watching how events unfold in July, typically the most arid month.

    A wide variety of dead fish, including carp, catfish and bullheads,
    has been reported in the Wilke Marsh in Palatine; in a section of the
    DuPage River near Naperville; in power plant cooling lakes; and along
    channels of the Kaskaskia River in southern Illinois.

    “Fish are like anything else. They are stressed like a lot of people
    and plants,” said Mike Conlin, director of resource conservation for
    the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “Everything is under a
    stress condition right now. If this persists, we’ll start seeing some

    The fish are succumbing to depleted amounts of oxygen in ponds and
    other bodies of stagnant water because of high temperatures and low
    water levels, Conlin said.

    “The hotter it gets, the less oxygen the water can hold, and the
    shallower the water gets, the hotter the fish get,” he said.

    Recreational fishermen are often the first to report mass fish kills,
    but they aren’t the only ones affected. The effects ripple up the
    food chain, from mussels in the water to raccoons, minks and otters
    that feed on aquatic life.

    “It’s going to affect our entire ecosystem,” Conlin said.The
    phenomenon was last widely noted during the drought of 1988, Conlin
    said. “We had a large number of fish kills occur.”

    Throughout the upper Midwest, waterfowl and game birds were deprived
    of fresh water and nesting cover. Fish trapped in shallow waters died
    by the thousands across the central states.

    Conservation officials are expected to discuss the problem Thursday
    when Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s Drought Task Force convenes in

    The 7.3-acre Wilke Marsh is southwest of Illinois Highway 53 and Rand
    Road. Hundreds of dead carp were recently spotted there by residents
    after the drought lowered the water level significantly and exposed
    much of the shore.

    “I looked out there and saw some white stuff floating in the pond,”
    said Albert Moreno, who lives in the Clover Ridge East
    Apartments. “At first I shrugged it off. But as the water continued
    to recede and more and more of them showed up, I could tell they were
    dead carp.”

    Since then, rains have replenished much of the Wilke Marsh, an
    environmentally sensitive area.

    “Common carp are very tolerant [of low oxygen] and can get a lot of
    air from the atmosphere,” Conlin said. “But when carp die, you know
    things are getting pretty tough.”

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